TOK: November 2017 Titles Deconstructed

Deconstructing the Prescribed Titles for November 2017

TOKQuestionA few notes of warning and guidance before we begin:

The TOK essay provides you with an opportunity to become engaged in thinking and reflection. What are outlined below are strategies for deconstructing the TOK titles as they have been given.

My notes are intended to guide you towards a thoughtful, personal response to the prescribed titles posed.  They are not to be considered as the answer and they should only be used to help you provide another perspective to the ones given to you in the titles. You need to remember that most of your examiners have been educated in the logical positivist schools and this education pre-determines their predilection to view the world as they do. The TOK course itself is a product of this logical positivism.

There is no substitute for your own personal thought and reflection, and these notes are not intended as a cut and paste substitute to the hard work that thinking requires.

My experience has been that candidates whose examples match those to be found on TOK “help” sites (and this is another of those TOK help sites) struggle to demonstrate a mastery of the knowledge claims and knowledge questions contained in the examples.  The best essays carry a trace of a struggle that is the journey on the path to thinking.

Many examiners state that in the very best essays they read, they can visualize the individual who has thought through them sitting opposite to them. To reflect this struggle in your essay is your goal.

Remember to include sufficient TOK content in your essay. When you have completed your essay, ask yourself if it could have been written by someone who had not participated in the TOK course. If the answer to that question is “yes”, then you do not have sufficient TOK content in your essay.

Here is a link to a PowerPoint that contains recommendations and a flow chart outlining the steps to writing a TOK essay.

The Six Titles:

  1. Is the value of knowledge related to how easy it is to access? Develop your answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.

In title #1 the key concepts that need to be examined are “value”, “knowledge”, “related”, and “ease of access”. The candidate is asked to develop their answer with reference to two AOKs. It is the choices of the AOKs that are crucial in the determination of the response to the question and you will notice that the title is in the form of a question. So, is the “value” of knowledge related to how easy it is to access in that AOK?

The title asks you to explore what the concept of ‘value‘ is in relation to ‘knowledge’ within two areas of knowledge (AOKs). “Ease of access” relates to the ways of knowing (WOKs) with reference to the two areas of knowledge which you will choose. This “ease of access” occurs in the interlinking open region between personal and shared knowledge.

We are given “ease of access” when we feel “at home” in something: a trained chef in the kitchen is “at home” in the kitchen because he “knows his way about” the kitchen; he is familiar with the tools in the world of the kitchen and he is familiar with the contents and qualities of the foods and the seasonings that are needed to be used to bring about a successful result . You have a fondness for certain subjects because you feel “at home” in them and the knowledge of the subject matter is easy for you to gain access to. This kind of knowledge was called “techne” by the Greeks. It requires a “knowing beforehand” of those things that are contained in the world of the kitchen or in the AOK so that you ‘feel at home’ in that particular domain. It is an expertise or a ‘know-how’: “I know x; I know how to y”. Look at the blog entry for “What is Knowledge” to get some assistance here.

The word “value” is the word that we moderns have come to use to replace the word “good” (agathon). For the Greeks, the “good” of something was determined by its “usefulness” or its “fittedness” for some thing or as some thing. It is fitting or useful that animals should breathe; it is not good or fitting if they do not do so. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” does not refer to the increased possibilities for action towards survival of someone who works out in the gym every day so that he or she is ‘fit’, but refers to the animal which is best able to adapt to the environment in which it finds itself. This adaptation or modification is “useful” to the animal in its survival. Working out is useful for health; health is fitting to the human animal.

With regard to the things that human beings make, their ‘fittedness’ is their ability to carry out those tasks for which they have been designed or produced: we ‘value’ Porsches and Ferraris because they are fit as automobiles to go fast and help us to enjoy the experience of motoring. So we can conclude that we value the knowledge that is of some “use” to us, whatever that use may be as it brings about some desired end which is “good” for us and our “happiness” or “well-being”.

If you look at the post entitled “What is Knowledge?” you can begin by examining and questioning whether the knowledge that might be spoken about with regard to the title is sophia (wisdom or knowledge of the first or divine things), theoretical knowledge, techne (know how or knowing one’s way about something or within something), phronesis or noetic knowledge (or intelligence as information). Of these, only phronesis is related to the kind of knowledge which is good for oneself i.e. one’s personal knowledge. All the other types of knowledge can be considered good for oneself indirectly, but they are generally considered to be “in another and for another”. The other four types of knowledge deal with shared knowledge predominantly. Phronesis relates to choices that determine actions. Phronetic knowledge is gained from experience and through experience. The other types of knowledge, when viewed within the knowledge framework, deal with choices that have been pre-determined by the methodology that arises from the understanding of things that are to be studied in the area of knowledge as concepts i.e. theoretical knowledge determines the method that will allow one access to the things that are of concern in the AOK under consideration.

If one is considering Religious Knowledge Systems, presumably what is meant by system is “a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.” (Notice that I am violating one of the principles of writing the TOK essay and using a dictionary definition of the word “system”.) This is the “how” that is mentioned in the title. A system prescribes the action to be taken, the choices to be made. So if we are looking at the five great world religions and how they have understood and interpreted the revelation of what they consider truth and knowledge to be, we can see that they have their truth revealed as either Law or as Being and from this a “methodology” has been determined on how one should conduct one’s life. Elsewhere in this blog I have written that religion is what we bow down to or what we look up to. A “system” may very well result from this initial stance towards what is bowed down to or looked up to. We in the West “bow down to” the results that can be achieved in the application of the knowledge that has come about through the theoretical sciences.

The great religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism understand their “knowledge” as a  way of being in the world i.e. to attain the highest end for human beings one must live like Christ or the Buddha or according to the Way in Taoism. For Christians, this “living like Christ” is then to be found in the various sects that have arisen over the centuries that best express this Christ-like ideal i.e. Catholicism, Protestantism, etc. Any “real” Christian will tell you that trying to live like Christ in the modern age is certainly not easy. How, in fact, is it possible to live as a Christian in the universities of our times? The life prescribed by the great religions is a great, pain-filled struggle.

Likewise for a Buddhist: to try to follow the Buddha’s prescriptions for attaining nirvana could hardly be considered “easy”. In Taoism, too, remaining within the Way is never considered easy. In all of these cases “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” when it comes to modelling one’s being in the world in following the lives of the ideal Being. Both Christianity and Buddhism could hardly be called “systems” as outlined in the definition above. The “system” arises when one looks at the various interpretations of the Bible or of the Buddhist texts that have come to be when one is to understand how “living like Christ” or “living like the Buddha” is to be undertaken. In Taoism, the Way is revealed through Nature, but there are basic human principles and standards that must be followed in order to achieve happiness. It is the closest to what might be called a “system” according to the definition.

Islam and Judaism have their truth revealed as Law, whether through the Koran or the Torah. One obeys the revealed word of God revealed as Law. Islam’s major sects are Shia, Sunni and Sufi, but there are a myriad of other interpretations of the Koran present in other minor sects as well. Judaism also has its own sects that interpret the Torah either “fundamentally” or in a more ‘liberal’ fashion. All of the religions mentioned contain basis tenets that believers within those religions adhere to as it is these basic tenets that determine who they are as human beings within the religion spoken of.

In the impertinent precis of these religions provided here, “ease of access” is certainly something which can be questioned and examined. What is clear is that the “truth” of these religions is available to everyone and in most cases is part of their shared knowledge. It is perhaps the misunderstanding of the “ease of access” to this truth that is the cause of so many of the world’s problems today.

Such “ease of access” is, obviously, not the case in modern physics where theoretical, noetic and techne prevail in the realm of what knowledge is considered to be. Only the few will have access to the mathematics and the apparatus necessary for “ease of access” to the truths of modern physics, biology, and chemistry. Such “ease” of access is only available in the wealthy advanced technological economies. The scientific method can hardly be described as “easy” when conducted properly; you have direct experience of this in your Group 4 subjects. Again, you can explore a number of different approaches and possibilities as determined by your choice of the AOKs.

But what about our theories, our theoretical knowledge? Our theoretical knowledge is, in fact, what is most fitting for us as human beings and, therefore, most valued although we skip over this value. We are caught up in the production or application that results from the theories and become lost in the “usefulness” of the products that are the result of the viewing that is grounded in the theories. All applications and production are the result of the theory that grounds those applications and products. Without the theory, no products, no applications.

Our theories are bound up in Reason and Language as WOKs primarily, with Sense Perception Imagination and Intuition playing secondary roles. It is from the perspective of the viewing that is theoretical knowledge that we are able to plan and design, to fabricate and create those tools or things that bring about our desired ends, that which we value. You should explore these through any two WOKs that you wish to choose. Go with your strengths.

With regard to your examples, choose from your own studies in the AOKs and from your own personal experiences. Using the knowledge framework, you might begin with the historical background of the subject areas, AOKs, that you wish to choose. What were the significant events/findings in the AOK? What new language came into being because of the need to see the world anew from the findings? For example, for Newton and Leibniz to ground their theoretical viewing of Nature, it became necessary for them to communicate that viewing through infinitesimal and finite calculus. Now, in physics, all results must be communicated mathematically. What necessities of communication are required in the AOK that you have chosen? How is this language linked to your personal knowledge? What roles do “subjectivity” and “objectivity” play in your examples?

A fruitful discussion of Group 3 subjects can result from an exploration of how theoretical knowledge,  noetic knowledge and techne has resulted from how knowledge as information is applied to the various studies of human beings that are conducted in the AOK. Examples of the use of statistics and models in the Human Sciences can be used to demonstrate how these establish “relations” between the knower and the object of study, in this case, other human beings.

“Relatedness” refers to language as a way of knowing. How we relate as Knowers to the AOKs is done through our WOKs and in the examples given here these are focused on Reason and Language. Any relation is established and must be established through language whether that language is mathematics or words as concepts and ideas. Again, a discussion of “shared knowledge” can be explored in looking at this key word.

In our Information Age, we value the knowledge that has been turned into “information” so that it can be processed as data for its efficient use and transformation. This “efficiency” and “speed” or “ease of access” to this “knowledge”as information is why this type of knowledge is valued in the modern.

Possible Knowledge questions

  • is our view of the value of knowledge dominated by the usefulness of that knowledge in its applications?
  • is “common sense” undervalued in our world view? what role does common sense have to play in today’s societies?
  • what role does the difficulty of access to knowledge play in the stratification of our social classes in our societies?
  • how does the concept of the view of truth relate to the “ease of access” of knowledge and how this knowledge is interpreted?

Possible examples

  • exploration of the whole notion of “alternative facts” and their relation to “knowledge as information and its “ease of access”
  • exploration of the mathematics created by Newton and Leibniz
  • historical background of the AOKs providing examples of “ease” (the discovery of penicillin, August Kekulé’s structure of benzene)
  • In History, “why” or “how” questions are more difficult to answer and do not have “the ease of access” that the 4Ws questions (who, what , where, when) have and are, hence, more highly valued
  1. Every theory destabilizes as much as it solidifies our view of the world” (Nathan Jurgenson). Discuss.

For Title #2, do not spend your time focusing on finding out who Nathan Jurgenson is. Focus on the issues and questions that result from the statement. Title #2 focuses on the manner in which theoretical knowledge establishes “grounds” or “the ground” in relation to providing the certainty and surety of what we think our knowledge to be. Reason and Language are the primary WOKs to be discussed through the title, but Imagination, Intuition, and Memory can also be used in establishing the “shared knowledge” that comes to determine the knowledge framework that in turn develops the “system” or methodology that will, in turn, determine the actions and decisions that will result from the theory.

Title #2 recognizes that theoretical knowledge establishes ‘our’ view of the world, our “world-view”. Using the knowledge framework, you might begin by questioning who the “our” refers to in the title and think about Indigenous Knowledge Systems as a point of departure on the exploration of the title or consider counter claims from this point of view. With “theory”, ‘our’ can only be referring to ourselves who live in the West or those of us who are from the West. Our view is, of course, now becoming the world’s view and, thus, its “world view”,  but this “world view’s” grounding theories are hardly thought upon. Does ‘our’ mean all human beings here or does the ‘our’ refer to Western thinking?


When I ask students the meaning of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ phrase: “Every thing is full of gods” they are dumbfounded and do not know. When I ask someone steeped in the upbringing of the Balinese tradition, I am responded to with a look of puzzlement and an “Of course they are. Isn’t it obvious”?  This example is parallel to the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia. Such examples illustrate the differences that are possible in the viewing of the world. In the West (and here I am referring to Western Europe where the theories first arose), with its four seasons and temperate climate, it is possible to speak of the ‘scarcity of nature’. Such a phrase simply does not make sense to someone from Bali, even though the Balinese have suffered severe famines in the past.

It is the “world view” that establishes the certainty and surety of theory that provides the stability of the grounds of the theoretical viewing.  Our Western world-view is a product of many centuries of our understanding of what Being is and how it has been determined in our understanding and interpretation. A “world view” constitutes human being in the world and is prior to and determines the theory which is a product of that world view. The theory provides a “world picture” (a framing) which is sequent to the world view. A world view is the view of the whole of things and what and how that whole is. It is the view upon Being and from this view arise various theories about the being of beings or things or how the being of things will be determined. “World pictures” result from “world views” and so here in TOK we speak of a “knowledge framework”.

Using the knowledge framework, you can explore the historical background of the chief theories that are present or are assumed in the AOKs that you will choose. Theoretical knowledge is based on first principles, the most predominant of which is the principle of reason: Nothing is without (a) reason, or Nothing is without a cause. The first principles establish the ground which gives the ‘stability’ and the ‘solidity’ of the theory’s looking so that the thing can come to a stand and be known through this stand (under-standing). Once the thing is known, knowledge of it can be communicated in language whether the language be mathematics or words (interpretation).

The theory is the looking that brings things to ‘presence’ for us and stabilizes them in terms of how we know them in that historical moment. Discuss this in relation to the WOKs. The strange thing is that the things resist being known in this way and this is what causes the “destabilization” of which the title speaks. You might wish to discuss how language creates this ‘instability’ whether that language is words or mathematics. It is the relation of ourselves to our worlds that creates this stability or instability on the ground of how we view that world.

In the AOK Natural Sciences, the historical background of the different world-views given in the ancients, Newton, and modern physics could be possibilities of exploration. Aristotle, Newton/Leibniz, Einstein’s special relativity and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle are examples that might be explored. But do be fresh with your thoughts on Newton and Einstein as these tend to be examples overused by students in TOK essays. How stability and instability reigned/reign in these historical examples are fruitful grounds of exploration, but be sure that you focus on the knowledge questions that arise which each shift or change in the theory. You might want to explore the crisis that has arisen in modern science through the discoveries of modern physics and what knowledge has come to mean in modern physics. Many attempts are being made by modern scientists to overcome Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle at the present time.

Werner Heisenberg

All of the AOKs are appropriate for examination through this title. One can use the knowledge framework to gather examples from the AOKs to initiate knowledge questions with regard to the “stability” or “instability” of the knowledge in the AOK. In the Natural Sciences, the knowledge questions arising from relativity and quantum physics is a good example to explore. You might explore this quote from Werner Heisenberg: “What we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.  Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means that are at our disposal.”–Werner Heisenberg 

Note the “instability” that arises from Heisenberg’s statement here with regard to what has traditionally been understood as “knowledge”.

In Mathematics, formal and applied mathematics provide examples to assist in a discussion and questioning of the title, particularly with regard to “stability” and “instability” in that AOK. Connections can be made between the surety and certainty of a world view that provides a mathematically calculable universe and the certainty that those calculations provide to any researcher anywhere in the world in the surety of their findings in their calculations.

One can discuss that it is the goal of The Arts and artists to “destabilize” the status quo. Questions such as “Is the work of art the theory of the art itself?” Is insecurity and instability the very nature of what Art is? and so on.

Be sure to use TOK language when discussing the examples i.e. refer to the shared knowledge and personal knowledge and how these change with the shift in the ‘view of the world’ brought about by these changing theories. Make reference to the knowledge framework.

In the Arts you might want to discuss examples of how the shift to the theory of ‘aesthetics’ historically parallels the shift that occurred with Newton in the Natural Sciences. You might want to explore how our focus has turned to the artist as agent or creator rather than on the work of art itself and what the essence of art might be. How have the discoveries of modern physics changed how we view the Arts today? Picasso’s cubism might be a good example to explore.

Possible Knowledge questions

  • how has the indeterminacy principle of Heisenberg created a crisis for science and for what has traditionally been understood as knowledge?
  • is it possible to achieve knowledge that is beyond our “world view”? If so, what would be the nature of this knowledge?
  • what is considered knowledge in the view of “reality” or the world of “facts” that is present in the Arts and sciences today?
  • is it possible to have knowledge when one approaches art through aesthetics?
  • how does the knowledge framework) illustrate the key concepts of “stability” and “instability” in the title?
  • what is considered “stability” in the AOKs of your choice?

Possible examples

  • classical (Newtonian) physics and quantum physics: the debate between Einstein and Heisenberg
  • the relation between theory and paradigm shifts and their initial instability
  • instability as the purpose of the Arts
  • the principle of reason as providing the stability for all mathematical projections of Nature
  1. Over time,knowledge has become more accurate.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Title #3 is a challenging one and can present a number of traps for the unwary TOK student. In many ways it is very similar to title #2.

Title #3’s basic question is whether or not what is commonly understood as “knowledge” progresses “over time”. Again, by examining the various types of knowledge that are discussed in What is Knowledge?  one can determine if, in fact, what types of knowledge do “progress” and what types of knowledge do not. A discussion of “progress” in the AOKs through the knowledge framework might be a useful place to start with your planning.  A question to be considered might be “Is it knowledge that progresses or the applications of that knowledge and their usefulness to human beings that indicate progress”?

“Progress” relates to “accuracy” in the title. The need for accuracy is required by the principle of reason and the correspondence and coherence theories of truth. Once again, Reason and Language as WOKs can be used to discuss this title and Sense Perception as a WOK can be used to provide juxtapositions or counter claims with regard to the need required for accuracy in what we determine knowledge to be in the AOKs that you choose. How do the methodologies of the AOKs provide “accuracy” in what they determine knowledge to be? Title #3 and Title #4 are very close to each other in terms of the concepts that they are using i.e. “testing”, “supporting”, “reliable” and so on. Why is “accuracy” and what type of “accuracy” is required in each of the AOKs that you will use. Obviously, one hopes for accuracy in the products that are the result of the knowledge when it comes to engineering, etc. We do not wish to live in buildings or cross bodies of water on bridges which are not constructed with “accuracy” from those who have studied engineering! Such a desire for accuracy is not required when it comes to the Arts. There are lots of possibilities and directions here.

In choosing your AOKs, you will need to look at what knowledge is conceived to be in those AOKs and how this knowledge is communicated. Use the knowledge framework to explore the historical background of the AOK as this will help you with the ‘over time’ element of the question. You may wish to explore you own development in becoming more “accurate” in your own understanding of what knowledge may be.

How does knowledge understood as theoretical, techne, phronesis, and noesis operate in the AOKs that you have chosen? When we speak of knowledge in The Human Sciences, for instance, why do we use models and statistics as choices for communicating the knowledge or results discovered there? What is knowledge in the Human Sciences? For what end is this knowledge to be put?

“Accurate” can be interpreted as “correctness” or “correspondence”: the object under study corresponds with the idea or the theoretical viewing that is present in the mind of the observer. In order for knowledge to become more accurate it must have been conceived as less accurate beforehand, that the prior viewing was somehow found wanting. What, for example, is “accuracy” in the AOK History?

In History we search for the causes of events using Reason in order to gain an explanation and an understanding of those events. The event in its standing is the object of our research. When we have gained the knowledge of what we believe to be the “cause” of something, this provides us with an explanation of the “what” of that something, its essence.

Possible Knowledge questions

  • what is the nature of knowledge? does knowledge “progress”? If so, what kind of knowledge is it that we believe “progresses”? What kind of knowledge does not progress?
  • by what standard or norm do we reference the “accuracy” of our knowledge?
  • why and how does the principle of reason demand “accuracy” in what we call knowledge?
  • is there a difference between “precision” and “accuracy” with reference to knowledge?

Possible examples

  • the role of “accuracy” in classical (Newtonian) physics and quantum physics
  • the concept of “accuracy” in the Arts i.e. Shakespeare’s characters as representations of real human beings
  • what is “accuracy” in the Arts? does “accuracy” have any role to play in the Arts
  • relations between predictability and accuracy in economics, the Human Sciences in general
  1. Areas of knowledge have methods for testing and supporting knowledge claims. How can we know that these methods themselves are reliable? Develop your answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Title #4 is not primarily about the nature of knowledge (the theoretical) but the way knowledge is constructed or arrived at, the results: the knowledge claim achieved through the methodology of the particular AOK. The theory is already assumed. The knowledge framework should be used to explore this title which primarily focuses on “shared knowledge”. From where the methodology arises should be explored i.e. the theory or the looking that requires testing and reliability.

The implication in the title is that we tend to find “results” that have been rigorously tested more reliable, valid and more useful.  Peer review, verification, the rigour of the procedures required by the methodology itself, clear criteria in the carrying out of the actions to arrive at the results are concepts that we seem to value in many AOKS whether they be in the Sciences or the Arts. These procedures or actions are what we call “research“; and research is the predominant activity involving any methodology determined by the principle of reason .  The principle of reason is what supports or grounds the knowledge claims made in the AOKs requiring that non-contradiction, coherence and sufficient reasons be demonstrated. The principle of reason assures us of the “reliability” of the methodology used in conducting the research.

One aspect of “reliability” requires that the results achieved be replicable. To achieve good results in the TOK essay, you are advised to replicate the steps outlined in the advice given in the TOK essay writing PowerPoint. In Group 3 and Group 4 subjects, you are required to observe the “scientific method” in the conduct of your experiments. Think about the “demand” words in the tasks that you have been given over the past two years for examples of how method and “reliability” meet in the demands required of the actions carried out. The principle of reason demands that we seek reliability in our use of mathematics to report our results whether as statistics or as some other mathematical equation. Counter claims can be explored in how the results and their reliability are communicated in the Human and Natural sciences.

Possible Knowledge questions

  • how and why have the methodologies of the AOKs come forth from the theories that are present a priori in the AOKs?
  • why is mathematics considered the most reliable and effective means of the grounding support for the reporting of results? why are statistics not necessarily reliable as results?
  • what is research and what role does it play in the testing and reliability of the knowledge gained in various AOKs?
  • why is reliability required in the rendering of the results of the search for knowledge through the various methodologies of the AOKs?

Possible examples

  • String theory and the role of evidence in the sciences with regard to reliability
  • Alfred Wegener and continental drift in Human Sciences
  • Atomic models and theories from John Dalton to J.J. Thompson to Ernest Rutherford to Niels Bohr to Erwin Schrödinger as possible explanations and accounts
  • economic models and their reliability in prediction
  • the reliability of “experts” in the critique of the Arts, etc.
  1. “The simplest explanation is the best explanation.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.

The three key terms of Title #5 are “simplest”, “best”, and “explanation”. What is an “explanation”? What is “simplicity”? What determines whether something is considered to be “good”, “better”, “best”?

“Explanation” is the “rendering” that is attempted through language as a way of knowing. This rendering is a “giving an account of” some thing, an account that must comply with the principles and axioms that are contained in the principle of reason.

Some good examples for this title are Einstein’s theory of special relativity E=MC^2 or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle where mathematically we describe the uncertainty principle as the following, where `x’ is position and `p’ is momentum:

Here in these examples we find that “simplicity” masks very great complexities in mathematical calculus (at least for us mere mortals). With both Einstein and Heisenberg, the mathematical equations provide an “explanation” of the phenomena that have been observed. If we remember that “Science is the theory of the real” and the “real” is what we consider “facts”, these principles as “theory” help to provide the explanation for the observations of the “facts” that have been observed and it is through the explanation that these “facts”, in fact, become “facts”.

The discussion of the “good” in relation to title #2 is also appropriate for this title. The “best” is what is most “suitable”, “fitting” and “useful” as the rendering which provides the explanation. This idea of “best explanation” is applicable to all AOKs and can be used to examine some of the “knowledge problems”  and “knowledge claims” that arise in any of those AOKs either historically or conceptually from within the knowledge framework.

What is most important in relation to the title is that a balanced discussion of the two AOKs required is rendered.

Possible Knowledge questions

Knowledge questions that you might identify in the course of the development of a response to the title include:

  • What is the relationship between an “explanation” and what are called “facts”? Are facts neutral entities?
  • how does an “explanation” become the “best” explanation?
  • what is the relationship between the knower and the knowledge that results from the “best explanation”?
  • in the modern physics example given above, in the debate between Einstein and Heisenberg, what are the implications for the nature of knowledge and its “explanation”?

Possible examples

  • Group 3: Keynesian economists and monetarist models: the role of modelling in providing the “best explanation” in the AOK Human Sciences
  • Group 3: The Phillips curve and transient accuracy in economics: is “accuracy” possible within Group 3 subjects and how is accuracy related to the rendering of the “best explanation”?
  • History: The Treaty of Versailles and the subsequent rise of Nazism in Germany: how does “theory” in history affect the rendering of the “explanation” and what is considered a “best explanation” in this AOK?
  • History: Standard rival interpretations of the Cold War: traditional, revisionist, post-revisionist: how does the a priori understanding determine the interpretation that results in the specific rendering of an explanation in this AOK?
  1. “The production of knowledge seems to require creativity at every stage of the process.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Title #6 is very open in that the responses required and expected depend on the interpretation of the key concepts inherent in the title: “production”, “knowledge”, “seems to”, “creativity”, and “process”. How these key concepts are used in the AOKs chosen will depend upon your use of the knowledge framework which will illustrate your understanding of the key concepts. This will require the proper use of citations.

The “production of knowledge” is the result that comes about through the theoretical knowledge or viewing, the “looking” that initiates the actions, those axioms and principles or the idealizations of the mind’s representations (intuition and imagination) upon which the action is based. These representations in the title can be understood as referring to noetic knowledge and techne as knowledge. 

Any two of the WOKs can be explored and questioned in the AOKs that you choose for this title. What roles, for example, do reason and language as WOKs play in the production of ‘knowledge’ and in the ‘process’ that leads to the final product that is to be considered ‘knowledge’? The title requires a great deal of constraint and focus on the WOKs and the AOKs chosen as all are possible and you can become lost in the myriad of choices.

“To produce” comes from the Latin producere which means “to bring forth”, or “to lead forth”.  You can distinguish between the “production” that is the result of Nature, such as a cherry tree bursting into bloom, and the “production” of human beings which may be a manufactured product or performance presentation in the Arts. Knowledge in the title can be approached as techne or “know how” or “knowing one’s way about or in something”. The “know how” is present in the “knowing one’s way in” the “process” that will ultimately result in a finished “product” which will be of some use or “value” to human beings.

“Creativity” usually means to cause to come into  being something that is unique and that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary or natural processes. The coming into being is the production; the process is the “know how” and the knowing one’s way about or in something that allows this “causation” or “occasioning” to come about. Counter claims can be explored through negative examples of the inability to bring forth or with the discarding of knowledge. No matter how hard I may try to create a work of art, without this “know how” and “knowing one’s way about” being present beforehand, I will never be able to produce a work of art of any merit or value.

The vagueness of the “seems to” in the title relates to the vagueness of the word “creativity”. This modern word underlies the focus on human beings as agents or “makers” in our current humanist world view. Ultimately, “creativity” means “to make” or to “produce”, but it also implies a quality of “originality”, or “uniqueness”. It is this element of “creativity” that is contentious and produces the knowledge questions and knowledge problems that are to be explored through the title. Imagination and intuition are possible WOKs should you choose to focus on this aspect of the title.

Creativity is the bringing forth or the leading forth into the completedness that is the finished product. Your writing of the essay is an example of this “creativity”: your personal knowledge or “know how” (which is also a shared knowledge) leads you to the writing or producing of the essay which will involve a “making” that may also involve imagination and intuition as WOKs in the stages of the process as you move towards its completion, the final result, hopefully, being a unique or original product.

Possible Knowledge questions

Knowledge questions that you might identify in the course of the development of a response to the title include:

  • How is knowledge produced or discarded?
  • How is a finished product, whether it be a work of art or an IPhone, “knowledge”? How is knowledge present in final “products”?
  • What roles do imagination and intuition play as WOKs in the process of producing the finished product which is the “evidence” of knowledge? How is a final product “evidence of knowledge”?
  • What role does prior knowledge (“know how”) play in the use of intuition and imagination at each stage of the production process?

Possible examples

  • any personal activities that involve bringing forth knowledge in your studies or CAS activities i.e. your writing of the essay; your volunteer work
  • exploration of works of art from Group 1 or Group 6 AOKs and the roles of the WOKs in the production of these works
  • examples of any finished product from the AOKs using the historical background of the knowledge framework
  • or possible counter claims through an examination of Ethics because of the necessarily “incompleteness” of any action







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Theory of Knowledge: An Alternative Approach

Why is an alternative approach necessary?

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